Mark's Gospel

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The Healing of the Syro-Phoenician Woman's Daughter

(Mark 7:24-36)

Jesus went to a Gentile area, the coast of Phoenicia near Tyre on the Mediterranean Sea. He may have gone to this area to escape from the crowds, or to avoid being in the territory of Herod Antipas. Perhaps Jesus was having a meal when the woman arrived - which might account for the conversation, which followed. Jesus' reply to the request of the woman to cure her daughter seems very harsh and even rude. There are a number of explanations to this miracle story:
  • The term 'dog' was used by the Jews to describe the Gentiles. The term 'children' was often used to describe the Jew's unique relationship with God as his chosen people. It has been suggested by some that Jesus didn't mean 'dog' in the sense of an insult. They point to the fact that dogs were sometimes referred to as family friends. However this seems to be a rather weak explanation.

  • Some claim that Jesus did not make the comment at all but had been put into his mouth by the early Christian community to show that Jesus thought his mission was primarily for the Jews and not Gentiles.

  • Others think that this story is an example of faith. The woman is not put off by Jesus' words. Her reply, that even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps, shows Jesus that she really does have faith in him to save her daughter and so her request is granted. Jesus was just testing her.

  • The miracle story was probably remembered by the early Church because of its strong emphasis on faith. The miracle portrays Jesus as being unwilling to help a Gentile. However, because her faith is so great her request is granted. The moral of the story is that of not only having faith but also being persistent.

Mark uses the story to introduce the fact that the Gospel message is not only for Jews but for Gentiles as well. In curing a Gentile, Mark is stressing the fact that Jesus' power over evil is not witnessed by Jews alone, but extends to all people.

This is the only miracle recorded by Mark of Jesus healing someone from a distance.

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